The NFL and the NFL Players Association on Saturday announced revised COVID-19 protocols that will reduce the frequency with which vaccinated, asymptomatic players and personnel are tested. The new protocols will go into place following the conclusion of the current week's games.
"The NFL and NFLPA have been engaged with our medical advisors to address the emergence of the new Omicron variant and how to stop the spread to ensure we keep everyone safe and complete the remainder of the season responsibly," the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement.
"The intensive protocols implemented last week and the rescheduling of three games were designed to stop the transmission of the virus and play this week's games safely. After this weekend's games, we have agreed to put into place a new set of protocols, which will include a more targeted testing plan, more flexibility for players to attend meetings virtually and also a high-risk player opt-out for the remainder of the season."
Under the original 2021 COVID-19 protocols, vaccinated players and personnel were required to be tested every week. The new program eliminates that requirement and moves instead to a system under which vaccinated players and personnel will be screened more stringently for COVID-19 symptoms and tested less frequently. Any vaccinated individual who shows symptoms will be isolated and tested immediately, while those who do not show symptoms will be subject to what the league and players' union are describing as "targeted testing," in which a specific group of individuals (such as a position group) will be tested one week, another the next, etc.
Additionally, players may undergo voluntary COVID-19 testing as often as they wish, and teams will distribute home testing kits that players can use for themselves or people who live with them.
There is no change to the protocol for unvaccinated players, who remain subject to daily testing.
The new protocols also allow players in high-risk categories, such as those with serious preexisting health conditions, to opt out of the remainder of the season if they are uncomfortable with the rule changes. Those wishing to opt out must do so in writing by 2 pm ET Monday and will not be paid for the remainder of their teams' 2021 games.